Doctors are worried they will face investigation and possible prosecution for decisions they made in “good faith” during the Covid-19 crisis.
A survey of doctors by the Medical Protection Society (MPS) has found that two in five are worried they will be held accountable for any patients harmed as a result of delayed referrals.
Another survey by the MPS has found that a majority of the public feel doctors should not face future prosecution or investigation over their treatment of patients during the Covid-19 crisis.
The MPS commissioned YouGov to poll 1,001 people. It found 84% of them said this should apply to medics who “acted in good faith” during the crisis.
Some 71% believe doctors should not be held personally accountable if patients suffered because of delayed referrals or non-Covid-19 services being unavailable or limited.
The survey also found 70% support the introduction of temporary emergency laws to protect doctors from criminal and regulatory investigation in relation to their treatment of patients during the Covid-19 crisis.
The MPS, which has 21,000 members in Ireland, wants the next government to introduce such laws.
The body also wants the Irish Medical Council to offer greater reassurance that doctors will not be subjected to regulatory action following decisions made in good faith during the crisis.
Dr Rob Hendry, medical director at MPS, said: “Doctors have worked in uniquely challenging circumstances. They have been treating patients with what is still a new disease, making difficult clinical and triaging decisions, and often while struggling with inadequate PPE provision.
“Many have worked outside of their normal area of expertise or came out of retirement to support the HSE effort — in the knowledge that over 8,000 healthcare workers have been diagnosed with Covid-19.”
He added: “Two in five doctors also told us they are worried they will be held personally accountable if patients come to harm as a result of delayed referrals. Now more than ever, they need to know they are supported. We hope the Government will make a bold show of its support by granting doctors legal immunity in relation to their treatment of patients in good faith during the crisis. This will provide unmeasurable relief for many in the profession.”
Dr Hendry said he hopes if and when the Medical Council receives complaints about doctors, they will not just stick to their commitment to take the specific facts of each case into account, but also reflect on the strength of public confidence in the profession.
In March, it was reported the State would indemnify both GPs outside of their “normal” practice, for all non-routine Covid-19-related work, under the clinical indemnity scheme and retired doctors who rejoined the medical register during the crisis.